The Unfinished Road Test
Corona Competitionentry, week 9
by Ray Holtzapple
It all started out while surfing eBay for MGC parts in June 2016. I had recently made my first venture into the world of MGCs when I purchased a complete left hand drive MGCGT from a fellow in West Texas and I was starting to make plans for its restoration. To my delight and dismay, however, that plan was about to change as I saw a 1969 MGCGT listed in Atlanta, Georgia that was right hand drive. Many of you know that I am deeply smitten by the RHD fever. My stable of MGs includes a 1974 factory BGT V8, a ‘64 MGB, ‘75 BGT Jubilee and a ‘36 MGPB former Lancashire police car, all of which are RHD.
Looking at the pictures on eBay, this car checked all the right boxes: first, it was RHD; second, it had a Britax sunroof like my V8; and third, it was here in the States. After my challenge of shipping a 1975 Jubilee edition MGBGT from England, this looked like it would be a cake walk. I followed the car auction for six days and corresponded with the dealer about the CGT. Satisfied with what I heard, I placed a bid, won the auction and arranged for shipping. The adventure began.
On its arrival, I found the car was lacking brakes and a clutch. No problem for an enthusiast like me, right? I got to work sourcing parts and said to myself, “Let’s just tidy up this wonderful engine compartment.” That concept had never worked for me before and, being true to the faith of a purist, it did not work this time.
Before I knew it, the car was in many pieces, no two together. The engine was tired and the crank thrust washer was gone, causing metal-to-metal contact. Luckily, the crankshaft could be saved and I had it welded at a very reasonable cost. As I read about rebuilding the MGC engine, I found that common wisdom said to lighten the flywheel by 25%. That is a lot, but just picking up the hefty flywheel made it obvious it was the right thing to do. The machine shop undertook the necessary machine work; a road test would prove the benefits. Hence, the plan for a road test is the subject of this article.
During the introductory road test of MGCs back in 1967, the press was not very kind to the performance and handling of the subject cars. The 1969 MGCGT I purchased is the first and only CGT to be road tested by a magazine after the original poor reviews. When Road Test 334 was published in Autocar magazine, ("Used Car Test: 1969 MGC" Vol. 135, nbr 3940, 30 September 1971, pp. 18-19), the car performed very well when compared to the earlier factory tests. It was this road test history that drew me to the car. Along with subsequent references to that road test in two other publications, a picture of it appears in the book The Mighty MGs. What a neat history to preserve!!
This brings me back to my multiple buckets of bolts, miscellaneous parts and the daunting restoration project facing me. Before his relocation to the Atlanta area, the previous owner, William Williams, had worked on the car in the UK. New rear wings were installed—but not exactly right, as the right hand door had more than a ½-inch gap at the back edge. New front wings were installed, too—but by now they were gone at the bottoms—and the right headlight bucket was rusted through. The English weather has never been kind to anything steel or aluminum, so it was no real surprise that I also found major rust in the frame rails, front floor boards, right hand rear area of the inner fenders and the boot floor. The internet proved to be a wonderful place to find new bits, and a very good West Texas rust-free MGBGT provided donor parts.
When all of the rusted areas were replaced or repaired, the process of going back together began.
The impressive, big six cylinder engine was great fun to assemble. As always, I started by painting the inside of the block as was done to the original castings. I have learned that is a great way to keep the inside from carboning up over the years. One part after another went on until the beast was complete.
With the refurbished engine, transmission and running gear in place, the CGT was approaching completion and seemed nearly ready for a road test. Sadly, the clutch decided to become problematic and that has taken time to sort out.
On examination, I discovered that the clutch master cylinder push rod was too short, a manufacturing flaw. Once I was able to overcome this, I conducted my own quick test up the street.
It was time to close my longtime shop and move everything to my new home workshop. As is so often the case, other projects have made their way to the front of the queue, so the CGT will have to wait its turn to get on the road. To complete the real road test and compare it to the Autocar test, I will have to get it off the lift in the next couple of months. Stay tuned.